Posts Tagged ‘action films’

Wild_Card_MoviePosterA Las Vegas bodyguard with lethal skills gets in trouble with the mob when he helps a young female friend who was left for dead.

Based on the 1985 novel Heat (Edged Weapons in the UK) by William Goldman and the remake of Burt Reynolds’ Heat (1986) there’s a fast car, periodic fight scenes, a mild mannered moralist character, Jason Statham must check them off and sign on the dotted line. And that’s not a bad thing Statham in the most typecast of role, rarely, if ever fails to deliver.

Simon West’s Wild Card is finely shot, it plays as an anti Revolver (2005), it’s linear, his Vegas is musty, hazy and dusty. The setting feels real and written intentionally or not what it lacks in pacing structure and credible fleshed out supporting character relationships it makes up for with Statham’s charisma and hand to hand action setups.

Part revenge, part self realisation film, its reminiscent of The Gambler (1974), Payback (1998)/Point Blank (1967), Get Carter (1971 and 2000 remake) to name a few. West offers a series of exceptionally well choreographed hard hitting, bone breaking, wince enduring scenes, which Statham effortlessly pulls off with a smidgen of drama. The action is raw, not dissimilar to the stylish John Wick (2014), and Wild avoids using guns mirroring Denzel Washington’s McCall in The Equalizer (2014).

To Statham’s (who also produced) credit you do root for the gambling Nick Wild, and you can’t help feel he may windup like Carlito’s (1993) Brigante or London Boulevard’s (2010) Mitchel by the end. It’s a pity it chose the action, cutlery stabbing route and you can’t help feel that some of the more dramatic scenes were left on the cutting floor despite Statham showing some great range.

The action is more raw than the stylish John Wick (2014), and Wild doesn’t like to use guns like Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer (2014). Both Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Angarano while entertaining look a little uncomfortable age wise in their respective roles. The supporting cast are mostly extended cameos from the likes of Anne Heche, Sofía Vergara and Stanley Tucci who notably steals the show as mob boss mediator Baby.

Digressing slightly, thanks to Bruce Willis taking pay cheques for small cameo roles it’s left a gap in the market for well loved but still under appreciated Jason Statham who, endless Transporter roles aside, has offered some decent performances in the West’s own Mechanic, Killing Elite, Revolver, spring to mind.

The production values are high. it goes beyond the out of the box action film in terms of look thanks to Shelly Johnson’s cinematography and West’s keen eye for detail giving him a knack for creating atmosphere.

Statham puts in an immense physical performance. It’s a solid action film, and quiet restrained, no big explosions, with minimum gun-play, it focus its on physical altercations. And for these reasons recommend.

The ultimate resort: VICE, where customers can play out their wildest fantasies is shaken up when artificial inhabitants becomes self- aware.What starts off as a respectable sci-fi thriller never really explorers or develops its interesting premise turning into a chase picture with guns being uninspiringly fired left right and centre poorly imitating The Matrix’s (1999) modish feel in the latter half.

It’s reminiscent in part of Michael Crichton’s West World (1973) and Future World’s (1976) concept that then delves into the realms of a staged The Purge: Anarchy (2014) mixed with a pleasure park gone wrong and carbon copied Blade Runner dialogue scattered though out. What sits uncomfortably in Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore’s dialogue and Brian A Miller’s depiction, is that the park goers fantasies are either excessively sexual or sick and awfully violent in contrast in tone to the exaggerated gun play action.

With great physique not even Ambyr Childers’ look and performance as Kelly lighting up each scene as the park’s on the run self-aware artificial robot can help the clumsily action and expository sequences. With a lack of back story Thomas Jane tries his hardest with a clunky script and given his performance in the comparable Surrogates (2009) Bruce Willis is flat and looks bored. Bryan Greenberg’s Evan and Brett Granstaff’s James feel miscast and actors Charlotte Kirk and Johnathon Schaech are sorely underused.

As well as the classics there’s The Machine (2013), Automata (2014), Impostor (2001) and other quality low-budget movies or the Almost Human TV Series to name a few which have tackled the themes in a superior fashion.

Even the sequel enticing ending feels forced. Aesthetically Vice looks great and the score is fitting to the well-lit sterile environments. If only Vice we’re half as good as the actors cast, lighting and locale it could have been an entertaining A.I film to add to the shelf.

A New York cop John Mclane and his son Jack finds themselves caught in a dangerous Russian conspiracy.

Thankfully director John Moore delivers an exceptionally fun ride, which goes from one breathtaking action set up to the next.

Although in wrong the place, at the wrong time element has been imitated countless times as one of the henchmen say, “It’s not 1986 anymore” and the franchise has had to move with the times. As a result the subtleties and focus on John’s character as in the first two Die Hards has been lost with Willis having a hand full of lines and comedy quips albeit why we fell in love with him and what brought Roderick Thorp character Joe Leland (renamed and reworked John Mclane) from novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” to life. The action packed sequels drifted away from Maclane with him prominently having Samuel Jackson and a hacker sidekick respectively arguably diluting the Die Hard ‘feel’.

 A Good Day to Die Hard writer Skip Woods doesn’t give Willis enough meaty dialogue, but its not just a case of the Hollywood star picking up his pay cheque, to Willis’ credit he gets plenty to do as he chews on a few great one liners with one or two genuine laugh out moments. Of course Woods gives the obligatory Die Hard twist but at least some effort had gone into adding another surprise.

 
Jack Reacher’s bad guy Jai Courtney is a good addition as Jack McClane and Mary Elizabeth Winstead returns in cameo as daughter Lucy. Only Holly is missing but this is about an absent father, which is only touched on but do you expect depth from a sequel to a surprise 80s action hit? Cole Hauser has a bit part and Sebastian Koch is exceptional with Yuliya Snigir making an acceptable focal character. Notable is Radivoje Bukvic as Alik who is as memorable as Alexander Godunov’s Karl in the original.

 

Marco Beltrami is on form, with a few familiar music cues and A Good Day’ has plenty of atmosphere thanks to Jonathan Sela’s cinematography of Moscow, this coupled with fantastic stunts and Moore’s slick fast paced direction it ensures a solid visual package. Notably there is an outstanding chase sequence which any action director would find hard to surpass.
 

It may not have the charm of the MTV generation original and clearly panders to high-octane, energy drink, disposable film goer – But that’s the beauty of this instalment and what the critics are overlooking A Good Day to Die hard infiltrates and becomes current, it’s probably no coincidence that old rockers Rolling Stones most recent track ‘Doom and Gloom’ closes the film showing Mclane maybe over the hill but he is just a relevant as ever. 

 
The Die Hard franchise, five action films that began with Die Hard way back in 1988. They are centered around the character of John McClane. The films have been imitated the world over, there’s also been several video games based on them as well as a comic book series.
 
Die Hard (1988)
 
Director John McTiernan’s Die hard is the archetype hostage action flick, often imitated rarely surpassed. It’s the sleeper hit that made Bruce Willis a star and remains sinisterly great fun to this day.
 
 
It captures that Christmas feeling perfectly with a distinguished score from the late Michael Kamen and some fine cinematography by the then unknown Jan de Bont (Speed Director).
 
 
The supporting cast are all first rate and include William Atherton, the late Paul Gleason, Bonnie Bedelia and the excellent Reginald VelJohnson as the typical cop Sgt. Al Powell. Alan Rickman, probably in his finest performance, is the heist leader Hans Gruber. His un-stereotype bad guy has oddly become a stereotype after being copied in countless action films.
 
 
Packed with compulsory 80’s one liners, over the top action and a well written script, Die Hard remains a great piece of entertainment.
 
 
 
 
Die Hard 2 (1990)
 
 
Bruce Willis is back as everyday man and cop John McClane in Die hard 2, Yipee-ki-yay! Renny Harlin follows John McTiernan’s original with the same action packed spirit.
 
 
Willis is again on witty top form and the story quite meaty for an action, wisely based on Walter Wager’s novel “58 Minutes” giving it a back bone. A team of terrorists is holding the entire airport hostage, as they plan to liberate a drug lord. Its an adventure with a a nice little twist. And it’s good fun watching McClane tries to outwit the terrorists.
 
 
There are some great action scenes and admittedly it has some comedy, but what makes Die hard 2 interesting is the snowy night setting, Wilis’ desperation, it’s dark, it’s edgy, there’s a lot of atmosphere, more characters and its not a rehash heist film of the first. In addition, there are some parts where the lead fails, making it a less predictable ride.
 
 
Willis is again on top form as the character that made him a film star. Both William Atherton, sleazy paparazzi and Bonnie Bedelia, as McClane’s wife return for a second stint. William Sadler who is in profound physical shape is the prefect bad guy. He really brings weight to the role. John Amos deserves a mention and the rest of the supporting cast are clearly dedicated, the acting is of a high standard. There’s also cameo from Twinkie eating Reginald VelJohnson (it’s a shame they couldn’t have fit him in the other sequels). Robert Patrick shows up very briefly prior to ‘T2’ fame.
 
 
Once again Michael Kamen provides an excellent and fitting score, Director Harlin delivers as solid well constructed squeal regardless of some dated effects and far-fetched moments.
 
 
All in all it’s a strong follow-up and has been often imitated like it’s predecessor.
 
Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)
 
 
I missed the Christmas feeling of the first two instalments in this summer set blockbuster and some of the characters of the first two films.However, on reviewing the first thing that hit me was the sad echoes of real life 9/11 and one wonders if the film would ever have been given the green light now.
 
That aside the film is very enjoyable as hungover John McClane and Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus, play witty duo, as they run around New York undertaking tasks set out by Simon played by heister Jeremy Irons.
 
Die hard fans will find the icing on the cake is the direct link to the first film and for everyone else there’s the banter between the leads and action scenes. The story is more complex than most action films and Irons bad guy has a little more depth than the usual villain.
 
John McTiernan proves once again he knows how to direct and pace a film while Bruce does McClane blindfolded.
 
 
Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
 
 
Underworld director Len Wiseman directs the fourth instalment of the Die Hard film series. With a story line that over focuses on today’s technology reliant world we live in, 4 is still an entertaining ride.
 
 
Almost everything is there, witty one-liners, great action scenes, however, like the third it lacks the ‘connection’ to the first two films, even though it includes a picture of Holly Gennaro.
 
 
Marco Beltrami score is fine and despite Willis getting on in years he puts plenty of life into John McClane. Cliff Curtis is excellent as FBI Deputy Director, action starlet Maggie Q is magnificent and the supporting cast include Kevin Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Justin Long however, appears out of place and possibly miscast.
 
 
Redeemably Timothy Olyphant’s bad guy Thomas Gabriel is perfect. He’s calm and less animated than some stereotypes. I feel that without Olyphant’s performance and Willis efforts the film would have been less fun. There’s some ‘free running’ action and the effects are great, but the jet scene was an unnecessary piece of superciliousness. In addition, it feels preachy, McClane’s son is nowhere to be seen and the end feels very rushed.
 
 
Yeap, it’s a mixed review, certainly watch for Olyphant’s performance, Wiseman’s slick direction and Wilis in his best role. Don’t expect too much and no doubt you’ll enjoy.
 
With my recent blog about Governor Swarzenegger I thought it would be rude not to give a little mention to Stallone.
Ah, the 80’s battle of the box office hero’s, amongst and collection of characters the kings of Hollywood actions had their defining characters, Arnold had The Terminator, Bruce Willis had John McClane (see this blog) and Stallone had John Rambo.
Over the last twenty years Stallone has suffered the same career ups and owns as his boxoffice rivals. What separates Sly from his other ex-Planet Hollywood stars is that he’s an Oscar nominated director and writer (never getting the credit he really deserves as a filmmaker). Rocky aside oddly in comparison to the other aforementioned characters John Rambo his most iconic and significant character that changed noticeably over the course of four films. To sum it up in one sentence Rambo went from a quite realistic war veteran in First Blood, to a totally over the top combat instrument in 2 and 3, coming full circle as a mixture for Rambo.
The movie was officially greenlit by Nu Image/Millenium Films and would be loosely based on a novel called Hunter (a novel to which Stallone had the rights for), it involved Rambo hunting a feral beast. In 2009 Stallone stated that the story had been changed and would feature Rambo searching for trafficked women who disappeared  over the Mexican border. However, in May 2010 he confirmed that Rambo V was cancelled and that Rambo had been “retired”.
So in the meantime sit back and relax, if you’ve never seen them or are a fan, here are my thoughts on one of Stallone’s most memorable collection of films.
First Blood (1982)

John Rambo (BAFTA winner Sylvester Stallone) is a fairly reserved and
sensitive guy, a man who has seen and lived the horrors of the Vietnam
War. He returns to the good old United States of America to find his
only friend has died. You can sympathise with him and when small- town sheriff (Brian Dennehy) takes a needless dislike to him and his heavy handed deputies mistreat Rambo you can see why Rambo is sent over the edge.
In retrospect, unfortunately the sequels turned John J Rambo into
‘Rambo’ the icon who relies more on an M-16 to get him out of trouble.
In First Blood Rambo utilises the teachings from Col. Trautman (Richard
Crenna) his war training and combat skills to stay alive and outwit his
pursuers.

With less guns and explosions director Ted Kotcheff competently builds the tension and suspense and you get the feeling Rambo may not make it till the end. The locations are wonderfully atmospheric – foggy, earthly capturing the true outdoors. Stallone, Crenna and Dennehy are on form and the movie has a strong supporting cast that includes David Caruso in an early role as Deputy Mitch. Underpinning all this is Jerry Goldsmith’s memorable score.
Rambo First Blood is a grounded drama and action must see.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Picking up with Rambo doing hard time after the events of the first film, he is given a second chance, however, he is left for dead behind enemy lines and must escape from his Russian & Vietnamese captors and bring some Vietnam Vet’s home.
Where as the first film was credible, the late George P. Cosmatos’ far-fetched First Blood Part 2 metamorphoses Rambo into the memorable gun-touting icon. With a James Cameron and Sylvester Stallone screenplay it plays on Rambo as the loner war machine. Jack Cardiff’s cinematography is worth mentioning, especially the jungle scenes, and rice-fields where Rambo must dispose of an endless supply of solider extra’s using a machine gun and a bow. Comatos’ packs the screen with stunts and explosions and handles the subtler moments with ease. Jerry Goldsmith once again delivers a thriving memorable score, that adds atmosphere to the films proceedings.
Famous writer and actor Steven Berkoff is perfect as the Russian bad guy (although peculiarly similar to his own General Orlov from 1983’s Octopussy). With a distinguished cast including Julia Nickson as Rambo brief love interest Co Bao, Charles Napier and Martin Kove. Richard Crenna makes a welcomed return as Col. Trautman and once again is the mediator between Rambo and the ‘bureaucrats’. Again Sylvester Stallone is in fanatical preposterous physical shape and mumbles through the restrained scenes with Nickson convincingly.
All in all it’s a great 80’s action flick, delivering a larger than life sequel. However, if there were any serious war messages they’re lost in the mist of leeches, explosions and bullets.
Rambo III (1988)
Peter MacDonald’s Rambo 3 is far removed from Ted Kotcheff’s credible First Blood and follows the Rambo icon established in George P.Cosmatos’ First Blood Part II.
What’s notable from the outset is the real life political and conflict shifts since ’88, as the Americans are helping the Afghan rebels achieve freedom from the invading Russians. As the cold war ended overnight this appeared to hamper this Rambo’s already out of date story line box office success. That said, paradoxically it has made Rambo more significant and highlights how quickly an alliance can shift which may stick in some viewers throats satirically or not.
Richard Crenna once again plays Col. Trautman who is captured behind enemy lines and Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) must stage a solo ‘unofficial’ rescue mission. Again, Stallone is in obscene physical shape for this instalment, and is 100% committed to his role as Rambo. There’s a brief appearance by Kurtwood Smith who gives the usual effective performance. Sasson Gabai and Spiros Focás are part of an effective supporting cast. However, the Russians are an array of forgettable extras and Marc de Jonge Colonel Zaysen just can’t escape from the stereotype script he’s been given.
Rambo 3 is very watchable but in retrospect it’s fraught at times by diplomatic changes of the time, even more so in today’s climate and ironically this takes the fun out this instalment.
Jerry Goldsmith’s score is once again excellent and MacDonald who was handed the directing reigns last minute does his best. There are a few stand out scenes all of which display Stallones refined abilities, a stick fight and horse game. Nevertheless, Sylvester Stallone and Sheldon Lettich screenplay is all comic book dialogue. The film looses memento in the second act and by the third you don’t care who lives or dies.
There’s gun’s, helicopters, bullets, explosions, monks and glow-sticks if that’s your thing you’ll love Rambo III.
Rambo (2008)
Now living in  Thailand, Rambo joins a group of mercenaries to venture into war-torn Burma, and rescue a group of Christian missionaries.
While this is another sequel that keeps John J Rambo as ‘Rambo’ the icon who relies more on a gun to get him out of trouble, Stallone is on top form as the heavy, bulky, Rambo – out with ‘don’t push me’ and in with the new catchy saying ‘go home’.
Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) is sorely missed but he still makes a brief (from the grave) appearance in Rambo’s dream. With this film is there’s no developed bad guy in a cinematic sense but there is however a bad army and silent leader which adds to the realistic tone of the film.
The acting is a mixed bag from the supporting cast, Brian Tyler’s music is fine, the locations and sets are fantastic but what stands out is Glen MacPhersons cinematography and Sean Albertson’ slick editing. Sly is on top directing form, giving a film that is like a war doc at times and you really see what damage bullets can do. Like is predecessors there is a message in Art Monterastelli’s and Stallone’s screenplay but it’s sometimes lost in the powerful gunfire and graphic blood. It’s not as smart as the First Blood but the ending rounds the film off well and Rambo ‘does go home’…
Yes, I’d happily pay to see another Rambo made. Well done Mr Stallone!
Even if he were permitted to run for President, forget the governor of California, forget he’s married to a Kennedy, Arnold Schwarzenegger will always be the last action hero to me.
His bodybuilding Mr. Universe success aside, From Conan to Terminator 2, Arnold was one of the most bankable stars of the 80’s and early 90’s, I’ll never forget an interview where the late Paul Yates on the Big Breakfast Show asked, “do you ever lie to your wife,” he causally replied something like, “Of course, I told her Last Action Hero was a big hit’. Proof he’s always had a great sense of humour!
With some wise roles and taking from his love of the Bond films and his own humour, Arnold finely tuned the one liner quips and he became a household name. Oddly he was never really criticised for his high body counts and Stallone seemed to take all the negative press.
I’m sure if it wasn’t for the sad death of his mother and his own heart problems and surgery that he wouldn’t have slowed. However, issues allowed wannabe Arnie clones to try and take his mantel, nevertheless, the new style of action hero, where brain means brawn did take the limelight and Schwarzenegger was wise to turn to politics which he’d always been interested in.
From a small isolated village in Austria to king of Hollywood, Arnold’s journey is an attraction in itself, but that is another story…
Below are my thoughts on some of Arnold’s most entertaining films.
Raw Deal (1986)
Wrongly disgraced FBI agent Kaminsky (Schwarzenegger) reluctantly takes up a job as a sheriff of a small town but is given another chance, goes undercover and joins the Mafia to take them down.
Paul Michael Glaser’s Raw Deal, possibly with a different director could have become a successful mediocre 80’s cop/gangster flick. However, it become another Arnold vehicle which does them both credit, playing on his humour, packed with one liners, his physicality, he throws guys about and his action persona, he fire lots of guns.
Looking back and to put things into perspective, and removing The Running Man (1987) from the equation, Raw Deal fittingly sits in between Commando (1985) and Red Heat (1988). The story is superior to Mark Lesters Commando, a high body count, rescue action. However, it lacks the dynamics, acting or grounding of Walter Hill’s ‘buddy’ movie Red Heat.
While this is was a clever Schwarzenegger ‘vehicle’ what stands out about Raw Deal is that he’s not on screen all of the time and gives the movie breathing space, allowing the gangsters, a line up of familiar faces including: Sam Wanamaker, Paul Shenar and James Bond baddie Robert Davi to do their stuff. Darren McGavin gives a subtle performance as FBI agent Harry and Kathryn Harrold isn’t bad.
Raw Deal was never going to win awards but it’s an above average production, fast-paced, action-packed and entertaining. It’s a guilty pleasure and a must for Schwarzenegger fans – No one gives Arnie a Raw Deal.
The Running Man (1987)
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Ben Richards who after being set-up with some altered surveillance footage is wrongly-convicted as the Butcher of Bakersfield. Later captured after a prison break he must try to survive a public execution gauntlet, staged as 2019 highest rated TV game show.
Nothing like the Steven King (writing a Richard Bachman) novel, veteran TV director Paul Michael Glaser gives an extraordinary vision of the TV consumer future. While slightly dated and its annoying use of footage from parts of the a film itself The Running Man (1987) was ahead of its time and still is an atmospheric and engaging ride.
It’s packed with outlandish stereotype characters, larger that life bad guys, big action sequences and the traditional Arnie one liners. But there’s a message that runs deep in Steven E. de Souza’s screenplay, which reflects our society, it’s fascination with realty TV, gambling and our fear of 24 hour surveillance, corrupt powerful corporations and manipulation by the media. Tackling the question in its own way, can you believe all you see?
There’s a dreamlike quality to the film, and the darker scenes ooze atmosphere. The costumes, sets and locations are striking, showing a great contrast between the different classes, the score is memorable but what makes this sci-fi work is that you actually care about the characters. The supporting cast are excellent, including Maria Conchita Alonso at her physical best, Alien’s (1979) Yaphet Kotto and Predator’s (1987) Jesse Ventura. Mick Fleetwood plays his older self and real game-show and TV host Richard Dawson is excellently cast as Killian. It goes without saying that Scwarzenegger is on top form in this physical role.
It’s great entertainment, it’s time to start running, don’t take my word for it, watch it.
Red Heat (1988)
Walterhill is on directing form in this Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick. Red Heat despite some political shifts still holds up today. Schwarzenegger looks leaner and meaner than ever in the role of Ivan Danko a Captain who is sent to the U.S.A to bring back fleeing Russian drug dealer back to Moscow assisted by Det. Sgt. Art Ridzik (James Belushi).
The supporting cast are an array of familiar faces including Gina Gershon, Laurence Fishburne and Peter Boyle. Ed O’Ross is convincing as the menacing drug dealer Viktor. Jackie Burch casting is perfect, Schwarzenegger’s Danko character is the just right as the fish out water Russian and James Belushi is on top form as the wise cracking cynical detective, it’s the perfect ‘buddy’ cop movie. The one liners flow fast at the expense of the culture differences between the USA and USSR.
Aside from James Horners rehashed music score from another Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, Commando (1985), Red Heat feels original and surpasses predecessors, setting the foundation for many copycat films that followed. There’s a witty script but it’s far meatier than your average action film, befitting from a shot on location feel, giving it some believability and atmosphere.
All in all it’s a better than expected, an enjoyable action film with Arnold in his prime.
Total Recall (1990)
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid who has the planet Mars on his mind. He goes for virtual vacation, however, things go awry as he discovers that his job, marriage and life maybe a lie. After a murder he’s forced to go to the planet for real but while on the run he finds that he may hold the key to an ancient Martian artifact.
Set in the year 2084 there are some nice futurist touches, talking robots, virtual tennis coaches, electronic nail painting to name a few. The internal mars sets are just that, sets, but the external, airport and mine shots are very effective. There is a wonderful otherworldly score by Jerry Goldsmith and some great costumes and spacesuits designed by Erica Edell Phillips.
RoboCop (1987) director Paul Verhoeven once again uses Ronny Cox as the menacing protagonist in this Phillip K Dick inspired story. In it’s day it was hailed for its special effects and make-up effects and while these have dated slightly, it still holds its own as an entertaining science fiction.
If the director reins and role were given to anyone other than Arnold this may have been a sci-fi thriller, but with Arnie’s larger than life screen presence and Verhoeven highly-flavoured visuals Total Recall is not given a noir look that would usual accompany such subject matter becoming a vivid futuristic action flick.
While the acting is a little overboard with a cast that include Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Marshall Bell it’s saved by the intriguing story that moves along at a fast pace and Schwarzenegger performance. The rest of the cast are hired bad guys, mutants and an array of quirky characters.
Overall Total Recall is a great piece of captivating entertainment so “for the memory of a lifetime Rekall, Rekall, Rekall.”
Predator (1987)
A team of commandos find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial hunter…
John McTiernan directs the perfect cast including the likes of Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura who are just right in this action orientated alien film. Arnold Schwarzenegger is armed with some great one liners but packs in a good performance with some subtler moments.
Apart from The Thing like shot at the very beginning, it’s and original piece that deservingly started a franchise. . To be picky only some of the editing and effects let the film down. Those aside, the music by Alan Silvestri is fitting with it jungle beats building up apprehension and suspense throughout the film. This film could have easy fallen into B movie territory, but the great Cinematography, creature effects and costume design keep it grounded.
The film builds up in true monster fashion by holding back the Predator’s reveal. Not since Alien has there been such hand iconic creature which Kevin Peter Hall wonderfully brings to life. John McTiernan notches up the tension in the final showdown and writers Jim Thomas & John Thomas give us a brave bold ending.
One of the most enjoyable rounded sci-fi films ever.
The Terminator (1984)
The Terminator remains one of the most enjoyable Science fiction films of all time. Bradfield’s pulse pumping score and nostalgic music from an array of obscure bands all adds to the lure of this timeless classic.
James Cameron’s direction is excellent, giving the visuals scope and depth. His above average story and screenplay stop it falling into B-movie hell.
The time travel is logical; in as much as if Sarah had never met Kyle, John would have been the off spring of one of her dates. Either way it’s highly satisfying science fiction and not science fact.
The films cast include Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen who play it natural and straight, Bill Paxton and Brian Thompson briefly turn up. The leads Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor give flawless performances and keep you routing for their survival from the now infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Terminator. The film has a gritty and edgy look, with some gore moments, even though some of the effects have dated, the practical effects from Oscar winner Stan Winston hold up to this day.
A defining moment for sci-fi action, Schwarzenegger and Cameron. The Terminator is compulsive viewing.
Commando (1985)

With a larger than life story, catchy tag-line and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name in bold letters you felt at the time this action could be something special.

In 1985 Schwarzenegger need only fend off Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone to become number the one action hero. Mark L. Lester’s Commando gave Schwarzenegger the opportunity to become a mainstream action star without the high concept’s of being a killer robot or an amoral barbarian. Schwarzenegger, avoiding bad guy typecast quickly became a good guy hero and the rest is history.

In true 80’s tradition Commando’s writer’s Steven E. de Souza, Jeph Loeb, Matthew Weisman deliver a simplistic paper thin, yet pleasing plot. Arnie is John Matrix, a retired elite commando who has only a few hours to rescue his daughter Jenny (a young Alyssa Milano) from an exiled dictator played by Dan Hedaya.

The cast are perfect for this genre and include Predtor’s Bill Duke and Vernon Wells in his best role as Matrix’s adversary Bennett. Striking Rae Dawn Chong is Matirix’s reluctant sidekick and has some amusing lines. And David Patrick Kelly plays a memorable role as the slippery bad guy Sully. Despite some filming and editing goofs, it’s a well-constructed film, Lester’s locations and sets, day and night shoots are worthy of note. James Horner accompanying score is excellent, with its catchy tune, horns and xylophone.

Genuinely funny, Arnold takes one liners quips to a new level thanks to Steven E. de Souza, screenplay. The body count is high and although far-fetched, for example, Arnold carrying a lot of muscle and firepower takes on a small army of extras, he is simply fascinating. With some remarkable practical stunts, brawl scenes, knife fights, car chases and plenty of shooting, Commando has everything an action film should have.

Over all it’s great action fun and as soon as Arnie picks up that first weapon you know, “Somewhere, somehow, someone’s going to pay.”

The Die Hard franchise, four action films that began with Die Hard way back in 1988. They are centered around the character of John McClane. The films have been imitated the world over, there’s also been several video games based on them as well as a comic book series.

In between producing and writing, I’ve put together my thoughts and comments on the Die Hard film series…

Die Hard (1988)

Director John McTiernan’s Die hard is the archetype hostage action flick, often imitated rarely surpassed. It’s the sleeper hit that made Bruce Willis a star and remains sinisterly great fun to this day.

It captures that Christmas feeling perfectly with a distinguished score from the late Michael Kamen and some fine cinematography by the then unknown Jan de Bont (Speed Director).

The supporting cast are all first rate and include William Atherton, the late Paul Gleason, Bonnie Bedelia and the excellent Reginald VelJohnson as the typical cop Sgt. Al Powell. Alan Rickman, probably in his finest performance, is the heist leader Hans Gruber. His un-stereotype bad guy has oddly become a stereotype after being copied in countless action films.

Packed with compulsory 80’s one liners, over the top action and a well written script, Die Hard remains a great piece of entertainment.

Die Hard 2 (1990)

Bruce Willis is back as everyday man and cop John McClane in Die hard 2, Yipee-ki-yay! Renny Harlin follows John McTiernan’s original with the same action packed spirit.

Willis is again on witty top form and the story quite meaty for an action, wisely based on Walter Wager’s novel “58 Minutes” giving it a back bone. A team of terrorists is holding the entire airport hostage, as they plan to liberate a drug lord. Its an adventure with a a nice little twist. And it good fun watching McClane tries to outwit the terrorists.

There are some great action scenes and admittedly it has some comedy, but what makes Die hard 2 interesting is the snowy night setting, Wilis’ desperation, it’s dark, it’s edgy, there’s a lot of atmosphere, more characters and its not a rehash heist film of the first. In addition, there are some parts where the lead fails, making it a less predictable ride.

Willis is again on top form as the character that made him a film star. Both William Atherton, sleazy paparazzi and Bonnie Bedelia, as McClane’s wife return for a second stint. William Sadler who is in profound physical shape is the prefect bad guy. He really brings weight to the role. John Amos deserves a mention and the rest of the supporting cast are clearly dedicated, the acting is of a high standard. There’s also cameo from Twinkie eater Reginald VelJohnson (it a shame they couldn’t have fit him in the other sequels). Robert Patrick shows up very briefly prior to ‘T2’ fame.

Once again Michael Kamen provides an excellent and fitting score, Director Harlin delivers as solid well constructed squeal regardless of some dated effects and far-fetched moments.

All in all it’s a strong follow-up and has been often imitated like it’s predecessor.

Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)

I missed the Christmas feeling of the first two instalments in this summer set blockbuster and some of the characters of the first two films.However, on reviewing the first thing that hit me was the sad echoes of real life 9/11 and one wonders if the film would ever have been given the green light now.

That aside the film is very enjoyable as hungover John McClane and Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus, play witty duo, as they run around New York undertaking tasks set out by Simon played by heister Jeremy Irons.

Die hard fans will find the icing on the cake is the direct link to the first film and for everyone else there’s the banter between the leads and action scenes. The story is more complex than most action films and Irons bad guy has a little more depth than the usual villain.

John McTiernan proves once again he knows how to direct and pace a film while Bruce does McClane blindfolded.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Underworld director Len Wiseman directs the fourth instalment of the Die Hard film series. With a story line that over focuses on today’s technology reliant world we live in, 4 is still an entertaining ride.

Almost everything is there, witty one-liners, great action scenes, however, like the third it lacks the connection to the first two films, even though it includes a picture of Holly Gennaro.

Marco Beltrami score is fine and despite Willis getting on in years he puts plenty of life into John McClane. Cliff Curtis is excellent as FBI Deputy Director, action starlet Maggie Q is magnificent and the supporting cast include Kevin Smith and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Justin Long however, appears out of place and possibly miscast.

Redeemably Timothy Olyphant’s bad guy Thomas Gabriel is perfect. He’s calm and less animated than some stereotypes. I feel that without Olyphant’s performance and Willis efforts the film would have been less fun. There’s some ‘free running’ action and the effects are great, but the jet scene was an unnecessary piece of superciliousness. In addition, it feels preachy, McClane’s son is nowhere to be seen and the end feels very rushed.

Yeap, it’s a mixed review, certainly watch for Olyphant’s performance, Wiseman’s slick direction and Wilis in his best role. Don’t expect too much and no doubt you’ll enjoy.

A New York cop John Mclane and his son Jack finds themselves caught in a dangerous Russian conspiracy.
 
Thankfully director John Moore delivers A Good Day to Die hard as an exceptionally fun ride, which goes from one breathtaking action set up to the next.
 
Although in wrong the place, at the wrong time element has been imitated countless times as one of the henchmen say, “It’s not 1986 anymore” and the franchise has had to move with the times. As a result the subtleties and focus on John’s character as in the first two Die Hards has been lost with Willis having a hand full of lines and comedy quips albeit why we fell in love with him and what brought Roderick Thorp character Joe Leland (renamed and reworked John Mclane) from novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” to life. The action packed sequels drifted away from Maclane with him prominently having Samuel Jackson and a hacker sidekick respectively arguably diluting the Die Hard ‘feel’.
 
Here writer Skip Woods doesn’t give Willis enough meaty dialogue, but its not just a case of the Hollywood star picking up his pay cheque, to Willis’ credit he gets plenty to do as he chews on a few great one liners with one or two genuine laugh out moments. Of course Woods gives the obligatory Die Hard twist but at least some effort had gone into adding another surprise.
 
Jack Reacher’s bad guy Jai Courtney is a good addition as Jack McClane and Mary Elizabeth Winstead returns in cameo as daughter Lucy. Only Holly is missing but this is about an absent father, which is only touched on but do you expect depth from a sequel to a surprise 80s action hit? Cole Hauser has a bit part and Sebastian Koch is exceptional with Yuliya Snigir making acceptable focal character. Notable is Radivoje Bukvic as Alik who is as memorable as Alexander Godunov’s Karl in the original.
 
Marco Beltrami is on form, with a few familiar music cues and A Good Day’ has plenty of atmosphere thanks to Jonathan Sela’s cinematography of Moscow, this coupled with fantastic stunts and Moore’s slick fast paced direction ensures a solid visual package.
 
It may not have the charm of the MTV generation original and clearly panders to high-octane, energy drink, disposable film goer – But that’s the beauty of this instalment and what the critics are overlooking A Good Day to Die hard infiltrates and becomes current, it’s probably no coincidence that old rockers Rolling Stones most recent track ‘Doom and Gloom’ closes the film showing Mclane maybe over the hill but he is just a relevant as ever.